It’s been said that many of the so-called “heroes” of the COVID pandemic who’ve been celebrated by the media are actually villains, and perhaps Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York should top the list. He saw to it that retirement homes were seeded with infected patients by ordering them returned their care homes rather than admitted to hospitals. Deaths in these facilities mounted, and they mounted faster than Cuomo’s administration was willing to admit. But the media and even Democrat state legislators have begun to take note, which is practically a miracle!
It seems equally true that some vilified by the media for their COVID response are actually heroes. Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida might deserve top honors here. Having spent the last month in Florida, I can attest that the business and social environment here is quite open compared to my home state (despite the presence of a few freaked out northerners who can’t quite fathom how stupid they look wearing masks on the beach). Florida’s infections, hospitalizations, and deaths have been lower than in California, New York, and many other states where lockdown measures have been stringent. (The first chart below is just a little busy…)
This approach to saving lives is obvious, yet critics at outlets like NBC News insist that DeSantis must be pandering to the senior population in Florida. Well, one wouldn’t want to be responsive to voters who happen to face high mortality risks, right? Others such as horror writer Stephen Kinghave jumped onboard to offer their bumbling public health expertise as well.
There were many experts and the usual collection of numbskulls on social media who were wrong about Florida. DeSantis handled the pandemic as it should have been handled elsewhere. But the propaganda to the contrary goes unabated. For example, this article is pathetic. Can these people be serious? Or are they really that stupid? This goes for the Biden Administration as well, which had entertained the notion of imposing federal travel restrictions on Florida!
The political attacks on Florida and its governor reveal the extent to which opponents wish to ignore the evidence in plain sight. The data on COVID outcomes put the lie to the narrative of a public health emergency requiring massive restrictions on personal liberty. We know those policies are powerless to control the course of the contagion. The pandemic, however, was the key to convincing the public to accept a more authoritarian role for government. It’s a blessing that not everyone bought in, and that there are places like Florida where you can still go about your business in approximate normalcy.
For weeks, even months, we’ve been hearing about dangerous new mutations of the coronavirus, and they’ve been identified in cases in the U.S. There’s a UK strain, a South African strain, a Brazilian strain, and still others, which differ in seemingly minor ways. Nevertheless, these variants are said to be more infectious. It’s also been reported that the South African and Brazilian strains might resist antibodies from prior infections from earlier strains.
There is a great deal of concern about the new variants. A search for “COVID-19 variants” turns up plenty of scary articles. However, there is some evidence that the new variants arenot as dangerous as alarmists contend. The resistance to specific antibodies does not necessarily imply resistance to protection by T-cells. As Youyang Gu points out, even if a new strain becomes “dominant”, that does not imply that cases will reverse their decline. This study indicates that the Pfizer vaccine is protective against both the UK and South African strains, and there is evidence that other vaccines offer adequate protection as well (and see here).
The charts demonstrate that the new strains haven’t arrested or reversed the declines in infections witnessed worldwide since early January. That doesn’t mean the mutations haven’t made a difference: perhaps the declines would have been faster in their absence. And we don’t know what the future will hold as the virus in various forms becomes endemic. Still, it’s reassuring to see that the increased transmissibility of the new strains hasn’t overcome factors that have contributed to the recent declines, which in all likelihood are related to increasing immunity in the population with a minor assist from vaccinations (thus far). As Lamb wryly notes about the recent declines in transmission: “Just saying”.
Intelligent public policy is all too often undermined by policy makers incapable of properly assessing risks. The Biden Administration is setting new standards in this regard with its so-called “return to school” effort. It’s difficult to know how much of it is sheer stupidity and how much is pandering to teachers unions. Equal parts is probably a reasonable approximation.
The public teachers unions have consistently opposed reopening since remote learning began last spring, despite reams of data showing the safety of school environments. Even the CDC agrees! Oh, but wait: the CDC just issued new guidelines for reopening, which among other things require six feet of distancing rather than the three feet Director Rochelle Walensky claimed was adequate just a few months ago. Obviously, this reduces the number of students many existing school buildings can accommodate.
COVID transmission in schools is “extremely rare”. And in addition, remote education is sorely lacking in effectiveness. Teachers who truly care about educating their students should be giving the unions an earful. Not only has learning been compromised, but remote learning has increased the achievement gap between the best students and those in the lower part of the distribution.
Private schools have been open and as the map above shows, public schools in a number of states are largely open to in-person learning. Where that’s not the case, public school buildings are often still being used by children. They’re under the supervision of adults, but not teachers! As Matt Welch says:
“… many of the empty school buildings in largely closed districts are not in fact empty—they are filled with kids, being supervised by adults, just not adults who belong to teachers unions.”
Incidentally, many adults with children now at home, rather than in school, have been forced to leave the labor force, and many of them are women. As Michael Watson asks, why are advocates of working women so silent on this point? And this is to say nothing of the health care workers diverted, during a pandemic, from patient care by the need to manage children at home.
In December, Joe Biden promised to reopen “most” K – 12 schools within his first one-hundred days in office. Shortly after his inauguration, that promise became “most” K – 8 schools. As Welch notes, now the goal has been made a bit more precise, and it’s a complete sham: the Administration wants at least half of schools to be “open” for in-person learning at least one day a week! But we’re already well ahead of that! (And see here.)
On top of that, the federal government is playing the interloper here: reopening is not a federal decision. Ah, but Biden wants $130 billion in federal money earmarked to aid schools in their reopening efforts. Anthony Fauci has decided the stimulus is necessary for schools to reopen, his latest in a series of embarrassing policy flip-flops. The funds targeted at schools would be spent in a variety of ways, including PPE, COVID tests, new ventilation systems, and enhancement of remote learning to accommodate smaller (and distanced) in-person class sizes. Some of the funds are likely to make their way into teacher pay and to shore up pensions. One thing is certain: the unions want that money, and they will come back for more!
The unions also argue that teachers should be prioritized for vaccines, which would place them ahead of groups facing drastically higher risks. This is flat-out callous, insane, and evil. Again, the risk of COVID to teachers and children is low, while the elderly population faces staggeringly higher risks. Vaccinating teachers ahead of the elderly would cost many thousands of lives on balance.
This article from Education Next by Darrell Bradford describes the conditions for reopening demanded by teachers unions as the culmination of several years of activism. The unions contributed mightily to Joe Biden’s election campaign, of course. Their overwrought posture on teacher safety aside, the unions’ obstinance on the question of reopening is intended as leverage in the legislative push for Biden’s school aid package. Here’s Bradford:
“In other words, if you’ve wondered what a national teacher strike might look like and what might cause teachers across the country to arrest local economies and subject millions of students to instruction that may lock in deep learning losses, it’s just like this.”
The schools are safe, remote learning is substandard, and isolation is damaging to children’s’ emotional well being. Union demands for continuing limitations on in-person learning and requirements for reopening are not just unreasonable, but dastardly. That the Biden Administration is crafting its reopening policy and spending initiatives to appease the unions is motivated more by politics than the interests of children and their families. It’s time for parents and other true advocates to let their school administrators, elected representatives, and government officials know that the unions do not have their children’s interests at heart. And well-informed teachers should demand that their union representatives stop playing politics with the educational goals to which they’ve devoted their careers.
The very notion of impartiality requires decisions that are independent of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual preference, gender identity, or any other component of identity. The great irony of identity politics is its insistence on using characteristics of identity as the key drivers in a broad range of human decisions. It does so in an effort to redress injustices, often in the distant past. This necessarily penalizes individuals bearing no responsibility for the original injustices, and of course those penalties are also assessed on the basis of identity.
That would seem to limit the political viability of reparations for injustices of the distant past, but identity politics seeks to foster a sense of contemporary and immediate relevance to claims of compensable injustice. That’s one way to rationalize the kind of massive redistribution contemplated by this movement. Those who would stand to benefit must be convinced of their ongoing victimhood, and those who would pay must be convinced of their guilt: despite all good intentions, they practice unconscious bias in all of their actions, words, and thoughts. If successful, the possibilities for transfers of wealth and power in all matters are limited only by the negative-sum reality of this scam.
The kind of propaganda referenced above is the province of Critical Race Theory (CRT). S.G.Cheah explains:
“Critical Theory originated from Immanuel Kant’s Critical Philosophy. Critical Philosophy states that ‘proper inquiry is not about what is out there in reality, but rather about the character and foundations of experience itself.’”
For a more detailed analysis of Kant’s “Critiques” of pure reason, practical reason, and judgement, see here. His primary focus was theology, but the adherents obviously found much broader application. The brief explanation quoted above is pretty accurate, and probably offers all the intellectual underpinnings critical race theorists require to push their agenda.
If one’s “experience” is the only evidence that matters, then the ravings of any lunatic must be taken at face value, and as truth. A concession to objective reality is tolerated only when and if it confirms an individual’s mood affiliation. And what defines one’s experience if not one’s inner feelings about events? Thus, regardless of facts, CRT would have us bow to mere feelings, perceptions, and assertions of harm said to be inflicted by the so-called “privileged”.
If I believe I’ve experienced racism, then CRT supports the conclusion that I have experienced racism. It is not confined to situations of overt discrimination. It goes for any conflict I might have with someone of a different race; any transaction in which I might feel disadvantaged; any life circumstance that I experience as “unfair”; or any judgement against me in a court of law. Racism is reality if I “experience” the world as racist (or sexist or homophobic or transphobic, for that matter.) These charges are conveniently leveled against those who have enjoyed any differential success in the world, irrespective of race, but primarily against whites and often Asians regardless of success.
Apparently, under CRT, one’s “experience” may extend to perceptions that today’s culture and institutions are evolved from any version of history one might choose to conjure. A prominent case are the lies promoted by the New York Times’ 1619 Project that the Revolutionary War was fought to preserve slavery. Jonah Goldberg’s thoughts on that topic are worth reading.
CRT has spawned some incredibly bad research. Here’s a review of two academic papers on the connection between the use of the “N-word” in LLP Google searches and 1) gun purchases “motivated by white racial animus”, and 2) “anti-black voting patterns”. The authors of those papers drew behavioral conclusions from mere coincidental events, based more upon their personal biases than objective evidence. They undoubtedly were aware of the weaknesses of using Google trends to gauge attitudes, but they willfully ignored that evidence.
CRT is being taught to our children in public schools and probably in some private schools. This is nothing short of an indoctrination campaign. Of course, CRT made much earlier inroads in higher education. A new web site, criticalrace.org, includes a searchable database on CRT training at U.S. universities, as well as links to a variety of articles on CRT. Many private corporations have been eager to jump on board with CRT. Take a look at the instructor’s notes on the poster boards at the racial struggle session shown below. Here is a longer description.
This is literally a propaganda putsch, and it is meeting with far more success than I would have thought possible. I’ve apparently misjudged the ability of my countrymen to think independently, or to think at all. Here are examples of the success of CRT advocates in convincing whites of their individual and collective guilt. There are individuals now so convinced of the guilt of all white people that they can’t help but make complete fools of themselves:
“We will only achieve tolerance and unity once white people accept that they are evil, repugnant, worthless trash whose very existence is a vomit stain on the fabric of society.”
Speak for yourself! I have to conclude that this poor woman recognizes something quite damning within herself, and she feels it necessary to project her innermost racism onto others who happen to share her skin color.
Now here’s a man to admire: Lt. Governor Mark Robinson of North Carolina. He isn’t having any of the CRT crap, and he knows how to give it back to the petty stringers in the media as well as anyone.
CRT is a lie, or many lies. Racists certainly walk among us, but to condemn all whites of racism, or to allege racism by any class with presumed privilege, is a gross violation of ethics. Guilt of recompensable racism cannot be established by mere claims about anyone else’s “experience” without impartial adjudication. The thoughts and actions of decent people are not dominated by racial animus or repugnance, and any presumption to the contrary must be rejected in the absence of objective proof. Everyone matters, and we must insist on equality under the law. That does not mean equality of outcome, and it is not an excuse for blaming negative outcomes on anyone skilled and/or fortunate enough to have enjoyed more positive outcomes. If the fact that blacks have not achieved average economic parity with whites is evidence of “systemic racism”, I would suggest it has more to do with short-sighted public policy efforts to engineer social outcomes than with racism. More on that in a later post.
In advanced civilizations the period loosely called Alexandrian is usually associated with flexible morals, perfunctory religion, populist standards and cosmopolitan tastes, feminism, exotic cults, and the rapid turnover of high and low fads---in short, a falling away (which is all that decadence means) from the strictness of traditional rules, embodied in character and inforced from within. -- Jacques Barzun